Young Professional Spotlight: Alexandra J. Caselli

Alexandra "Allie" J. Caselli is a 24-year-old licensed funeral director & embalmer at Leete-Stevens Family Funeral Homes and Crematory in Enfield, Connecticut.

How long have you worked in funeral service?

I began shadowing local funeral directors when I was a freshman in high school to get an idea of the job, but it was not until college that I started my first official job interning at a local funeral home. In 2017, after graduating and passing the National Board Exams, I began my apprenticeship with Leete-Stevens and received my funeral director and embalmer license later that year. I have worked at Leete-Stevens since that time.

Why did you begin working in funeral service?

I knew from an early age that funeral service was what I wanted to do. Growing up, my parents instilled the values of community service and compassion for others in our everyday lives. It made me realize that in life I was meant to do something that would genuinely help others. In my opinion, there is no greater time in life when someone could use guidance and support from others than when experiencing the loss of a loved one. It is an absolute honor to help each family I serve and guide them through these decisions and difficult times. I genuinely want them each to know that I am here for them, no matter the time of day, from the initial call through the time leading up to the services and then throughout the time that follows.

What is the most rewarding part of your occupation?

Properly honoring someone's life in a way in which they would be proud. I love when families personalize their services to honor the person's life in the way in which they'd want to be remembered, whether that be through something like their favorite music or personalized mementos. Each and every person is so different from another that I believe it is important to include aspects of that person's life rather than just following a structured procedure in which the traditional funeral would typically be run. When family members get involved in making a meaningful service to honor their loved one, then I know they are able to come together to share ideas and memories, ultimately providing them with some sort of closure or the beginning steps to finding closure, and I think it is really special that I can aide them in that process.

What are your professional goals?

Of course, one day I wish I could own, or part-own, my own funeral home. Realistically, though, I do think it would be a goal to one day dive into the other side of the spectrum and teach prospective students in college. On a more minor scale, my professional goal I have for each day is to work hard to make sure each family I meet is satisfied.

What are you proud of that you have achieved so far during your career in funeral service?

I'm really proud of how far I have come since the time I started. In my career so far I feel I have made a lot of great connections with other funeral directors and I have worked hard to increase my knowledge and be able to problem solve on my own. Looking back to when I started my apprenticeship, I remember I had questions on virtually everything, but now there is a sense of accomplishment in knowing I can do it myself and even be part of training for new apprentices coming in. I have also been able to put on some wonderful end-of-the-year memorials and tributes that I am proud of because the families enjoy coming to the service each year to remember and honor their loved ones they've lost that year.

What are some important/notable trends you have noticed in funeral service?

Families are beginning to move away from traditional services and leaning more toward celebrations of life at the funeral home. Obviously cremation is becoming more and more popular, but I also see more people stepping away from church services as well and opting to do something more personal at outside locations. Another thing I have noticed is a lot of people inquiring about green burial/biodegradable urns.

How do you spend your time outside of work? Is there anything in particular that you enjoy doing?

Outside of work I enjoy hiking and exploring new places with my Newfoundland puppy, Philip, and traveling to see my favorite band with my best friend. I also really enjoy tie-dying and reading.

What are three of your personal goals?

  1. Learn to accept my limits.
  2. Start each day on a positive note or with a good outlook.
  3. Stay persistent and reliable at work and to my friends and family despite outside obstacles.

Who or what inspires you?

I absolutely admire both of my grandmothers. They are both such strong, intelligent and selfless women who always put their families first and support us endlessly  to do what makes us happy and be ourselves. Both of them were extremely supportive of me when I went to college and encouraged me to stay driven, work hard and be the best I can be. I know they are always there if I need someone to talk to and they always have the perfect advice no matter the situation. My grandmothers are both so compassionate to others and nonjudgmental, and I aspire to be half the person they are.

What is your favorite phone app?

The only thing I really like my phone for is to stay in touch with my friends and family because I relocated quite a distance away from them all when I started to work with Leete-Stevens. But I think my favorite work-related app is a PDF scanner. It comes in handy a lot.

What is one thing your peers would be surprised to know about you?

I really don't know what my peers would be surprised to know about me. We are with one another so much that I think they know mostly everything about me already. I remember when I first started working they were really surprised to find out I had 10 pet bunnies that were all house trained and taken for walks outside on their leashes.

What is one thing that you think is just “golden,” wonderful or exciting?

Hearing the opening notes to your favorite song, especially when it is being played live.

What do you value most about OGR?

The thing that I value most about OGR is that it stands to remind others of the rule that most people were taught from a young age. Treating others as you would want to be treated is something that is so instilled in every person from the time they are in primary school. I know by being a member of OGR it shows the families we serve that we would treat them as we would our own family. Since becoming licensed, I've experienced the loss of both of my grandfathers and I told my family I wished to care for both of them because no one would treat them the way that I would as their granddaughter, but it was during that time I realized that this is the moral that should be upheld for every family I work with. They should know their loved one is in good hands and will be respected and cared for just as I would respect and care for my own family members. I value that OGR implements this level of practice and code of ethics for the funeral homes that are involved with their organization.

The organization as a whole tries to ‘follow the Golden Rule.’ What other words do you try to live by?

The two "mantras" I try to live my life by are 'In everything you do, do it with a grateful heart' and 'You are never given more than you can handle.'

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